A bit of a long post today, so please bear with me!
On Wednesday we left Corinth and drove 80km to Athens. It took about an hour and a half to get there on the toll roads, with delays caused by an accident on the approach to Athens. I’d emailed ahead to book a pitch, but there really was no need as we were the only van here. Or maybe it was a good job, as they might not have bothered opening up! The campsite is the only one in central Athens, and will be our base for a week. It’s situated close to an eight lane highway so there’s a fair bit of traffic noise, though we’re pretty good at ignoring background noise by now.
We bought a ticket for the buses and metro from the cigarette kiosk across the road, then caught the bus to Larisis station from where we took the metro to the Acropolis. After taking a quick look at the surroundings we went to find some lunch. The big thing in Athens food-wise is gyros, which are essentially doner kebabs made from chunks of meat rather than the reconstituted meat that you typically find in the UK. It didn’t take long to find a gyros takeaway, ordering one each, and they were delicious.
I’d booked us in for a walking tour which started by Hadrian’s Arch, so we set off to find it and then went for a coffee whilst waiting for it to start. It was one of those free walking tours where you tip the guide at the end, and our guide was an Irish fella called Jonathan. Although a foreigner, he really knew his stuff and took us all around the city, giving us top tips as we went. The only others on the walk were a German couple and a lady from Vietnam, so it was almost like having a personal tour. The walk was supposed to take around two and a half hours, but this one lasted three and a half hours, so we were feeling a bit knackered by the end.
After a cheeky beer in one of the restaurants, we set off looking for a shop called Chesstavli. I enjoy playing backgammon on my phone, but I’ve never played a game on a real life board, and for a long time I’ve wanted my own decent wooden set so I can show Carol how to play. We eventually found Chesstavli in the flea market (tavli is the Greek word for backgammon) where they had loads of handmade boards on display, and I bought a really nice set. From there we went for dinner, and then caught the Metro and bus back to the van.
On Thursday I had a chiropractor appointment booked at noon, and in the afternoon we’d arranged to meet our friends and fellow motorhome bloggers Katherine and James, who would be staying at the same campsite as us for a couple of nights. We left the campsite early so that we could find the chiropractor’s place and go for a coffee. Just like the previous day, we caught the bus to Larisis and got on the metro. As it was still rush hour the train was crowded, and I got split up from Carol. I always feel uncomfortable in situations like this so I was on my guard, trying to keep an eye on the blokes around me. At the next stop those blokes all got off, and when I checked my pockets I was horrified to discover that I’d been pickpocketed and had my wallet and phone stolen.
We got off the metro at Syntagma Square in a state of shock. I’ve never been pickpocketed before, and I thought I was being careful. I’d put my wallet in a zip up pocket in my cargo pants at knee height thinking it would be safe down there (I often have trouble opening the zip myself) but they still got me. We explained what had happened to a waiter in one of the cafés, and he kindly let us on their WiFi. I used Carol’s phone to stop my bank cards and get the SIM card in my phone disabled.
My phone was a budget model – it’s access to my data that’s the more important. Fortunately I have my old phone as a spare to tide me over until I get sorted, and I bought a local PAYG SIM card in the local Vodafone store. Our daughter Clare will be flying out to spend some time with us in Budapest in a few weeks, which is good timing as she’ll be able to bring out a new phone and replacement bank cards with her. I’m not going to let this spoil Athens for me, as this could have happened in one of many European capitals and I was just unlucky. I have to say that the gang who did this are very good at what they do. I just hope they get their comeuppance very soon.
By the time I’d finished cancelling cards etc it was time for me to go to see the chiropractor Katerina, while Carol waited in the local café. I’ve seen many chiropractors over the years, and Katerina is up there with the best.
After lunch we walked around the town, and were surprised to find a Marks & Spencer. We of course went in to check it out, only to find that the prices were much higher than in the UK. We did however buy a few packets of Percy Pigs, which will get eaten on some long drives we have coming up.
Later on we met up with Katherine and James, and their lovely hound Oscar. Going for an early dinner, it was great to catch up with them. As they have a hire car, they gave us a lift back to the campsite.
That evening I spent ages on the site’s ever-so-slow wi-fi downloading apps and updates to my old phone, a real chore!
Yesterday Katherine and James gave us a lift into Athens. First port of call was the Acropolis with Katherine, whilst James waited outside with Oscar as dogs aren’t allowed in. The Acropolis was smaller than Carol and I were expecting, and we didn’t get the wow factor, probably because we’ve seen so many photos of it over the years. There was quite a lot of scaffolding up there and a couple of cranes, so it did feel a bit like a building site. The views over Athens from the top though are amazing.
From the Acropolis we said goodbye to Katherine and walked into the town. After a quick lunch we found the food market and bought some fresh veg. Then, following a visit to the Vodafone shop and the café, we walked over to the Acropolis museum. It’s a big museum and well laid out, but many of the exhibits were plaster replicas owing to the originals being located in the British Museum courtesy of one Lord Elgin back in the early 19th century – clearly a sore point with the Greeks.
After a nice slap-up dinner (Carol and I shared a gyros and a souvlaki) we caught the metro and bus back to the campsite. As Katherine and James were moving on this morning, we invited them to ours and we had an enjoyable evening chatting over a few glasses of wine.
On the first Sunday of the month in winter, the government-run sites and museums have free admission, so we’d decided to stay at the campsite today to catch up on some laundry and admin. When doing the laundry, the campsite owner warned Carol that a big demonstration would be taking place tomorrow in Syntagma Square, with a million protesters expected from all over Greece. It’s to do with UN negotiations which are going between Greece and Macedonia. The Greeks feel strongly that the name belongs to them, and so the former Yugoslav Republic should find another name. At the last protests before Christmas, violence broke out with petrol bombs being thrown at police. This put paid to our plans to take advantage of the free admissions, and so we’ll be staying on the campsite for another day, keeping out of harms way, and we’ll finish off our sightseeing Monday and Tuesday instead.
I think it was Dr Johnson who wrote something along the lines of ‘sorry for the long letter, I didn’t have time to write a shorter one’. It’s the same here!